“Jurying” (season three, episode five; originally aired 12/09/2005)
This episode marks the not wholly triumphant return of Sophie. It seems that she has not been distinguishing herself at the distant outpost where she’s been serving the company, and when she comes back to town for a visit, Johnson sits Mark and Jeff down and talks turkey. He wants them to be the calloused fists “inside my velvet glove.” Specifically, he means to deputize one of them to tell her that she’s “on the precipice” and needs to shape up. But which of them should it be? “Remind me,” says Johnson, “which one of you is balling Sophie right now?” The best Mark can really say is that, of the two of them, he’s currently the leading contender for the honor, a situation that does not seem to traumatize Jeff in the slightest.
Jez, meanwhile, has been called in for jury duty. This alarms Mark, though he has trouble finding a tactful way to explain why. The best he can do is to point out that Jez has never been able to fully make out what happens in Ocean’s Eleven. (“It’s a complicated film” Jez protests, meekly. “It’s really nice,” Mark says, also meekly.) The sitcom hero on a jury who finds himself in a 12 Angry Men situation is a time-honored staple of TV comedy, but Peep Show finds a new take on it. After the court proceedings are underway, Jez meets the defendant—a woman on trial for credit card theft—and they hit it off. (“It’s nice to get away from the jury,” he tells her. “They’re so boring! All they want to talk about is ‘the case.’”) He ends up inviting her out. “This isn’t wrong,” he reasons, “just illegal. Like drunk driving.”
Jez and his new friend go out to a gay club with Mark, Sophie, and Sophie’s new friend, a fun-loving gay dude who passes around tabs of Ecstacy—or, in Mark’s phrase, “a white pill of drugs”—with the promise that it will provide the user with “a nice floaty launch, with a soft, crunchy landing.” Mark feigns taking his, the better to keep a clear head and pass judgment on Sophie’s new, wild-and-crazy lifestyle. He hits the dance floor and claims that he “feels like I’m trapped inside a giant arrow” and is even coming down with a case of “the famous munchies.” He sells it so convincingly that Sophie’s friend decides they have a bond and just has to hug him. “Oh, God,” thinks Mark, “the sweaty grip of a moron!”
Picking his moment carefully, Mark waits until they’re all back at the flat before he reveals his sober state, denounces the hedonists, and advises Sophie that she is in a precarious position at work. He’s barely noticed that Jez’s date is a sociopath who picks the pockets of the others in the group and proudly confesses that she couldn’t have committed the crime she’s on trial for because she was busy doing worse stuff elsewhere. She and Jez begin to make out, and Jez thinks, “Just keep kissing. If we’re kissing, she can’t say scary stuff.” In the safety of the deliberations room, he tells the other jurors that he’s been seeing the defendant on the sly, and through some fairly stirring oratory, convinces them to vote to convict, because even if she’s not guilty, the streets will still be safer without her free to roam them for a while. He dismisses his own momentary regret over what he’s done by reflecting that women’s prison is “probably like one long hen’s night.” Somewhere, Henry Fonda is shrugging.
- Preparing for Sophie’s visit, Mark considers the possible benefits of the chocolate-flavored condom: “We might both be more relaxed if we regarded my penis as a novelty item.”
“Quantocking” (season three, episode six; originally aired 12/16/2005)
Everyone heads out for a weekend in the Quantocks, which I’d never heard of before, but Mark has a newspaper mega-voucher for the place. It’s there that Mark intends to finally propose to Sophie. And Super Hans has impulsively decided to go straight edge. “I give him about five minutes,” thinks Jez, but he agrees to help his friend get through the process of going cold turkey in a hilly vacation getaway setting. Before you can say naked lunch, Jez is sitting at the foot of a bed to which he has taped Super Hans. Tugging half-heartedly at his bonds, Super Hans says, “It’s all become very, very clear to me now, Jez. I want some drugs.”
Jez abandons Super Hans for the company of Big Suze, but just when things are going swimmingly between the two of them, he’s interrupted by Mark. He and Sophie had a disagreement over dinner, and now Mark feels that he should fumble about in the dark, looking for her. He also feels that Jez should assist him. “I don’t want to go,” thinks Jez, “but apparently you can’t do whatever you want, because of civilization.” It is the first of many lines in this episode that the show wears as a facial tattoo, proudly spelling out its philosophy of life.
Mark and Jez become hopelessly lost, and Jez wants to call Mountain Rescue, reasoning that this is what Mountain Rescue is for. Mark won’t have it: “We’re not going to be two of those idiots you hear about who go up a mountain in flip-flops and sombreros and have to be rescued!” “You’d rather be one of those idiots who are found frozen to death, being chewed on by a badger, after drinking their own pee?” asks Jez. That is, indeed, about the size of it. Mark is the last, burning embodiment of the British tradition of repressed emotion and the stiff upper lip, a once-romantic notion now revealed to be juvenile neurosis. He would infinitely prefer to die on the moors than suffer the embarrassment of calling for help.
Being lost gives Mark and Jez a chance to talk, and before long, with just a little promoting from Jez, Mark realizes that he would much prefer not to be married to Sophie. With every unhappy development in their relationship, it’s become a little more important to him that he prove he can get her to the altar, but they have no common interests and he doesn’t really enjoy her company. The thought that he might actually just not ask her to marry him—that “There might even be other women in this country who’d be willing to speak to me,” or better still, that he might remain a bachelor and just sit home alone, happily eating what he likes and watching TV, lifts up and liberates him. But when he finally makes it back to the hotel, after splitting up with Jez and having “slipped into a mini-ravine and angered a crow that was defending its young,” Sophie has found the ring he had hidden, basically proposes for him, and accepts. “This is good,” Mark thinks as they embrace. “Not really loving her sort of puts me in a position of power. Sort of.” But the show has just come as close as it ever had or will to conceding the point that, so long as they're living together, Mark and Jez are already married.